Author: Nathaniel Slattery
Posted: Month of Holy Souls, 28th Day, Year of Our Lord 2022
Philippe de Champaigne, The Annunciation
These are fictive meditations on the fifteen traditional mysteries of the Rosary. This first is the Annunciation, which is the mystery by which the Archangel Gabriel delivers to Our Lady the message that She is blessed above all women, above all mothers, above all Creation, the fount and fullness of grace, the Crowning Work of God the Father. For this reason and by this reason, She receives the Incarnation. If you are aware of the Rosary and do not pray it, or if you do pray it and do not attempt to meditate upon it, then you are acting foolishly. May the Lord reward you for your labors.
Dedicated to St. Joseph, and my first son. Pray for me and for my aborted relatives, their mothers and fathers, my wife’s aborted relatives, their mothers and fathers, as often as this story is read or told.
The Artist was much more than already accomplished. He had no need for anything: not money, not food, not provision, not honor, not glory, not sustenance, not recognition, not improvement, not practice, not anything. He only desired to produce out of the necessity of His Own Nature, something which originated and ended with Him, which He loved.
This in mind, He set to work. For five days, He prepared the setting drawing it, summoning it, kneading it, cooking it, and speaking to it. At the end of the fifth day it was ready: the mold, the casting, the material, and that special element.
He drew up the mold and put it firmly in its place, giving it perfect order and beauty, a thing never before seen and never since, where all the constituent parts had harmony together, and sang rather than quarreled, parts which, for all time, in the hands of every other artist, lesser artists by an infinite gap, and in the eyes of critics, examiners, and mechanics, would be natural antagonists. But in His wonderful Hands, they were as pieces of a magnificent garden, perfect to behold and walk within, and indeed, this was only the mold for a greater Creation.
The casting was lesser, weaker, and simpler than the mold, for it was designed to deteriorate in order to give place to that final setting of the cast.
The material, too, was plain, because it was more extravagant that way, when the Artist would produce something wondrous from nothing but dust.
And this was the special element, the thing which put not only His trademark on it, but His very Likeness, so that within this highest yet art of His, all could see not only His Finger, but His Head.
When it was finished, it was not quite perfect. He saw that every single one of its proportions and characteristics necessitated a second, complimentary piece, and so without delay, He created this.
In this second piece, there was something else, a beauty to be paired with simplicity, a loftiness to be paired with strength, a dependence to be paired with creativity, in short, endless traits which complimented traits of the first.
He knit it together from the materials and casting of the first, wounding the first, drawing from it what He needed, and making the first more perfect by it.
When finished, the pair were perfect. Immediately, He exposed them to outside criticism. The critics tore them down maliciously, seeing in all their perfection something flawed, inventing an arrogance and presumption on the part of the Artist that was altogether false.
He would have laughed, had He been surprised, but He was an Artist Who knew all this was only a part of the process, and if there was injustice in it, it was not His.
Again, He took from the first, the pairing that is, and produced a new creation. He brought those two together, unified them in a way He had supplied but not yet divulged, and from this He drew from the first a material altogether more fearful, and from the second a casting altogether more wonderful, than that which He had used prior. It was, in short, no longer an inanimate thing which He molded into an animate, but now it was a seed which He fostered and watered and soiled, having designed its way of growth intimately, and then it did grow. It grew forth, bloomed, and fruited for Him, and the three together were again perfect, in fact amazing to those critics who in their words had foolishly prepared their own downfall.
The astonishment of this creative process, rehashed from destruction, far from causing repentance, infuriated those critics, and they no longer settled for libel but now moved to sabotage. They stole the means of creation which the Artist had left open to scrutiny, and they created their own fruit out of seed and seedbed, and this fruit grew up and consumed the good fruit of the Artist. They were left only in bittersweet victory, for the seed of that good fruit then scattered, watered by its spilt, red juice, in a way planned by the Artist, and as the evil fruit prospered, everywhere grew up good fruit that, in such an evil setting, seemed to gleam all the more with radiant beauty and perfection.
The enemies, then, turned to stealing all good fruit which they could identify, consuming it when they could, eating it without pleasure or satisfaction even when it began to ripen, before it ripened, even the buddings. When they failed at this, then they took it and put it in such a setting of darkness and moisture that it would be sure to rot before ever it could ripen. They were not enough to get every good fruit, but they had such success in their fury over time, that it seemed sure they would ultimately succeed.
The Artist’s first response to this was very simple. A good Gardener, He cared for what fruit He wished, the most promising, and cut away the least promising. As the situation progressed, it was time for a new step in the process, and He took only one tree which gave great fruit, and He kept it in His care, and then took His bucket of washwater for sculpting and upended it over His worktable where all this took place, cleansing it off, and beginning anew with the single tree.
The tree was tall and white, gleaming with a golden gleam, strong in the bough and tender in the branch, with deep, black roots that drew up from the soil more than it needed. With it, He fostered new and great materials for Himself, and wove them together into wondrous new things, pictures of that first creation, portions of it emphasized. He crafted one which was grand in size and powerful in scope, and yet had a delicate refinement in its details. He crafted another soon after that had the same proportions, but more complex color and arrangements, because it sat upon the prior, which had the strength to carry it. Many times, He created one which was beautiful, and yet was mainly a tool that aided and granted new aspects to others.
In short, He created an endless series of works of art, so varying, each so unique and perfected, that the work table soon resembled a magnificent sculpture garden, unimaginable. The critics were at work, but their vehemence and irascibility only seemed to emphasize the greatness of His labors.
All this, though, was only a preamble and preparation for One Thing which He desired from the beginning to create. He was approaching Its Advent and had made for It the perfect progenitors, two trees of immaculate fruit, as well as a good housing, something carved of the hardest wood, strong, simple in every way, giving itself over to the beauty of What was to come.
This Creation was an intimate thing for Him. He prepared a watery place for it, full of the right elements, dark, private, and He approached it immaculately, with joy.
From the one tree, He took a delicate fiber, translucent, golden. From the other, he took a magnificent scarlet and rose cloth, elastic, durable. Within the cloth, He wove the fiber, stitching it between the seams, within the middle, at the edge, wrapping threads together and hardening them, spinning them, enfolding them with strips of the cloth, stringing strands of fiber around this, enclosing His own Fingerprints upon a Solid Center, and then binding the whole thing together and leaving It to Itself for a while.
Some months went by, and It emerged from the watery place. It came out as unfolding Mystery, as a Great Whole Whose parts came one by one into place. From the first, It looked upon the Artist in a way which none of Its predecessors had, and It smiled at Him.
Time went by, years, and It grew. In all things, It assumed a perfect femininity in Its design, that He knew was a picture, or nay, a fulfillment of that second creation. This One, however, had a Compliment and Partner so far beyond what the first had, that there was no doubt that It could never be created.
He smiled and waited, keeping His enemies from Her, using for this purpose the housing which He had made earlier, for Her to grow and set in.
In time, She had become full in size, and He looked upon Her one day, and He told Her the Secret which She had longed to know from Him.
He said, “All this was for You, for My sake, because You, My Dear, are My Perfect Home.”
Then, He entered through and dwelt within Her.